My previous post titled An Ingenious Postman told an anecdote of a resourceful postman who was able to deliver a letter despite the ambiguity of the address. This post includes several more instances in which a postman was able to successfully deliver a letter even if the recipient’s address was vague, illegible or partially wrong.
Didn’t Know About the Address
Some letter senders have no idea about the exact address of the recipient so they settled on providing more — albeit vague — information that may help the postman.
A letter addressed to “My dear Ant Sue as lives in the Cottage” found its way to Aunt Sue, after some difficulties, who was living in a cottage near Lyndhurst.
It made me wonder how they were able to deliver this letter directed to
H. M. Steem Friegkt,
Vutur, Uncon or els ware,
to H. M. Steam Frigate Vulture in Hong Kong.
The letter addressed
was duly delivered to George Miller, on board the Amphitrite in Valparaiso.
The following was not only curious but praiseworthy as well:
An American man who went to England didn’t know the current residence of his sister at the time so he addressed his letter to her previous residence:
Curiously, the post office was still able to deliver the letter to his sister. The man was surprised when he got a reply from his sister, who told him that she received the letter on the top of a stagecoach in Wales.
The man was both amazed and grateful to the post office for their ingenuity and dedication, he wrote, “[…] no other country can show the parallel, or would take the trouble at any cost.”
Didn’t Know the Name
Sometimes, the senders didn’t include the name of the recipient either because they didn’t think that it’s necessary or they didn’t know the name of the recipient. In these cases, they tried to give a description of the recipient’s physical appearance or occupation.
This is for her that maks dresses for ladies, that livs at tother side of road to James Brocklip.
The fate of this letter was unknown:
Travelling Band, one of the four playing in the street.
Persha [Pershore], Worcestershire.
Please to find him if possible.
This letter’s fate from Mrs. Gamp was also undetermined:
To E. E, a cook as lived tempery with a Mrs L, or some such a name, a shoemaker in Castle St. about No. — Hoburn in 1851; try to make this out. She is a Welsh person about 5 feet 1 — stoutish. Lives in service some ware in London or naboured. London.
In these examples, the senders were familiar with the address to a certain degree. However, they didn’t know how to spell the addresses correctly. For instance, someone who wanted to send a letter to Scotland wrote “Stockling” and another wrote “10 S C” instead of Tennessee. But there are much worse examples, like spelling Ratcliffe Highway as “Ratlifhaivai” and “Ratlef Fieway”, and High Wycombe as “Ivicum”.
If you are a postman, you better know different spelling variations of several places in case someone messes up the spelling of the address. A couple of centuries ago, the Danish and Norwegian Consul of Ipswitch noted that “Ipswitch” had a large number of spelling variations in the addresses of letters he received from overseas. Thus, he decided to assiduously compile a list of all the incrorrect spellings of Ipswitch. There were 57 in total and here’s some of them:
Ispovich, Ie yis wich, Ipsvikh, Vittspits, Ipsveten, Epsig, Elsfleth, Ixvig, Ibsvi, Hoispis, Ipsvitx, Iysuich, Ipswgs, Ipswitis
Some people addressed letters using shorthand which included numbers:
The letter addressed to,
23 Adne Edle Street, London,
was correctly delivered to 2 Threadneedle Street, London.
John 7, Scotland
looked confusing at first glance, but the postman was able to duly deliver this letter to Johnshaven, a village in the North of Scotland.
Consider this letter which was addressed to
This letter was meant to someone who lived in Osborne Cottage, Isle of Wight.
It’s hard to think how
ner the Wises
received the letter as his place of residence was Devizes.
And this letter addressed
too dad Thomas
hat the ole oke
10 Bary. Fade
was successfully delivered to The Old Oak Orchard, Tenbury.
Other Curious Addresses
This one was rather ambiguous, but the postman was able to locate her:
To my sister Jean, Up the Canongate,
Down a Close, Edinburgh.
She has a wooden leg.
Some letter senders were too general in their descriptions. The post office may need to hire a psychic or two for these letters to be delivered:
To Mr. Michl
In the town of
This letter was probably written as a joke. Obviously, it wasn’t delivered:
To the Britisher most Ashamed of his Country,
House of Commons,
Someone addressed a letter addressed to
The biggest fool in the world,
The post office endorsed the letter as:
“The Postmaster of Tunbridge cannot decide whom to deliver this
to, as he does not know the writer. Cannot find.”
This one was written by a student in Salsbury:
To my Uncle Jon,
A letter together with a pair of spectacles had the following superscription:
My dear Father in Yorkshire at the white cottage with white pailings.
There are instances when the eyes are not enough to decipher an unclear address. In the following case, the postman also had to rely on his sense of hearing. A letter arrived in London addressed to
Mr Owl O’Neil,
General Post Office.
However, nobody in the post office knew someone with that name. A clerk kept repeating “Mr Owl O’Neil, Mr Owl O’Neil” aloud while looking at the letter. Another clerk who heard suddenly exclaimed, “Why! That must be intended for Mr. Rowland Hill.” — which was correct.
If you think that the digital age had already dulled the ingenuity of modern postmen, then think again.
In December 2016, Nicole Lally received a Chrismas card that didn’t contain an exact address from her friend Amanda. The postman was clued that the letter should be sent “between between Ballinasloe and Galway”. The letter was addressed to
Yer wan, her mother’s from Castleblakeney but the daughter’s an ex-townie, grew up in Athlone and moved to Ballymacward when she got married, lives next door to her in-laws now and has a rake of children, 7 dogs, 4 cats and about 30 hens and ducks, some rabbits and fish and I think she has a hamster as well.
Finally, the postman was given an additional hint, “She also has a shrine to the Virgin Mary at the left corner of her garden.” Using all the information provided and his local knowledge, he managed to deliver the letter successfully.
In August 2016, a letter which contained a hand-drawn map of a remote corner of Iceland instead of a detailed address was promptly delivered to its proper recipient.
The sender addressed the letter to Iceland, identified the city as the village of Búðardalur, and named the recipient as “a horse farm with an Icelandic/Danish couple and three kids and a lot of sheep”.
At the bottom right corner of the letter, the sender wrote that the letter’s recipient was “the Danish woman [who] works in a supermarket in Búðardalur”. The letter also depicted a map that pointed the direction to the house.
The map showed some roads and the bay of Hvammsfjörður. A red dot (with a boxed label “here”) was used to indicate the location of the house. Fortunately, the postman succeeds in delivering the letter despite the circumstance.
Andrew Wynter, Curiosities of Toil and Other Papers, 1870
Charles Dickens, Jan Myrdal (trans.), Vardagsord: Tidningsmannen Dickens i urval av Jan Myrdal, 2011
Walter Thombury, Old and New London: A Narrative of its History, its People, and its Places Vol. 2, 1873
The Eclectic Magazine of Foreign Literature, Science, and Art, Vol. 9, 1869